Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Best Bites of Italy #11: Gastronomia San Martino in Cinque Terre

This is the 11th post in my Best Bites of Italy series, a round-up of the best eats during my 2 week trip through Rome, Venice, Florence and Cinque Terre. Previous posts include... Rome: highlighting Renato e LuisaLa Gelateria del TeatroFried Artichokes at GiggettoLa Pizza del Teatro in Rome and Osteria Le Mani in Pasta (truffle heaven!); Venice: Osteria Alla Frasca and Cip Ciap Pizza; and Florence: Uscio e Bottega, Trattoria San Lorenzo and La Beppa Fioraia.
Cinque Terre was the last destination in Italy during our 2.5 week euro trip. It is the one place that I've longed to visit in Italy, above Rome or Venice. Cinque Terre is made up of "five lands" by the sea, each marked by a colorful village with a slightly different character. There are no cars in any of the villages, the only way to get here is by train or by boat. While tourism is the main driver of the economy here these days, a lot of the city's charm is still there in full force.

Besides its fresh seafood, picturesque cityscape and gorgeous ocean views, Cinque Terre is also well known for its lemons (helllllo lemoncello!) and the region is the birthplace of pesto. While J and I just barely missed the lemon festival that's here every May, there was still tons of lemoncello and pesto to go around.

I've already briefly mentioned my obsessive usage of TripAdvisor throughout this trip. So you know that when we arrived at our cute B&B in the village of Monterosso al Mare, L'Antica Terrazza - which I totally recommend by the way - I was on my phone, checking to see what good eats were around. I was more than happy to find out that the #1 restaurant listed in Monterosso was right under our place. Ummm, I think this is what people call fate.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Beet, Goat Cheese & Candied Pecan Salad

The CSA has officially taken over my fridge. Every week, I get a new mix of veggies that I'm challenged to cook and finish through the week. On weeks that I'm dining out more than cooking (such as this past week), I have a really hard time finishing everything before I get the next batch. Of all the veggies that I got a few weeks ago, my rainbow swiss chard was the first to be consumed. A quick sauté is all it takes before I can incorporate it into a meal.

Then, there are some veggies that I tend to neglect. The one that was staring me in the face was the beets. Although beets sometimes has a reputation for being your grandpa's favorite food since it's usually so mushy when it's finally prepared, it's definitely made quite a combat in fine dining. Two preparations that come to mind is the amazing way that Atera charred the beet so it was black on the outside and juicy and almost bloody on the inside. Reminiscent of an awesome piece of seared steak. Blue Hill at Stone Barns also took the meat approach when making their beets - they turned it into mini beet sliders.

But let's be honest here. I'm a beet-cooking noob, so I took the simplest approach in my preparation - I just boiled the suckers in water and a bit of vinegar because that's what the internet told me to do. It's supposed to prevent the beets from bleeding into the water - but it didn't work for me. The beets bled anyways but no one was hurt, so we were fine.

After boiling for about 45 minutes, the beets were fork tender, and I peeled off the skin with a spoon and it was ready for me to put into this lovely salad. I had no clue that 3 beets would be so much, I must have had this simple beet & goat cheese salad 5-6 times over the course of a week and a half before I was able to finish it all. That was fine by me since this goat cheese, beets and candied pecans went so well together. And since I made these beets by myself they had more of a bite to them unlike the more mushy beets I usually buy or order at a restaurant. Gotta love the CSA for pushing me to try making new things!

On nights that I wanted a quick meal, I quickly dressed this with balsamic vinegar. However, on a night when I was being fancccy and cooking for a friend, I reduced the balsamic vinegar in a pan to drizzle it over my salad.

Beet, Goat Cheese & Candied Pecan Salad

½ medium beet, cooked & cut into forkable pieces
1 oz goat cheese
1 handful of candied pecans
2 medium turnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
3 cups of lettuce
balsamic vinegar to lightly dress salad
good quality olive oil
fresh ground black pepper

1. Reduce balsamic vinegar (optional). Depending on how fancy you're feeling (or how many pots you want to wash), reduce ½ cup of balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan over low heat. Once the liquid evaporates to about half of what it was, turn off heat. The longer the vinegar sits, the thicker it becomes for you to use to dress your salad.

2. Add everything in bowl. Layer your salad with lettuce, beets, goat cheese and dress with either reduced balsamic vinegar or just balsamic vinegar. Drizzle some olive oil over that. Top with candied pecans and a crack of ground pepper if you choose. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

NYC: Biking through Summer Streets

Happy Thursday! Now that the weekend is just 2 days away, are you thinking about what you're going to do this weekend yet? I know I am. I already mentioned this on my 5 Things You Must Do in NYC This Summer post, but Summer Streets is my absolute favorite thing to do on Saturday mornings in August. It's the best way to start the weekend.

Miles and miles of Park Ave along with other parts of lower Manhattan down to the Brooklyn Bridge will be closed off to cars and there are fun corporate sponsored pit stops along the way. I am usually terrified of getting run over by cars but love biking so it is the perfect event for me. I love that New York City puts on this event every summer. It gets everyone out and active early in the morning: from families to organized runners with their pacers.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

NYC: David Yurman Sample Sale Report, August 13-15, 2014

Just got back from the David Yurman Sample Sale at Chelsea Market and wanted to give you guys the 411 of what's there.

Usually the lines are crazy by the time the doors open (I am talking about a one hour wait), so I have not been able to shop right when the sale begins. This time, the sale started at 10am so I was able to line up right before work to check it out - most cable bracelets sell out within the first 30 minutes, so I was most excited for this!

I got in line inside Chelsea Market at 8:50 and there were 3-4 people waiting. 10 minutes in, we were told that we had to wait on the outside of the building at 410 W16th Street- so take note if you are interesting in coming - entrance is on the outside of Chelsea Market.

So how was the loot? This time around, I had my eye on the cable bracelets since I knew that they were the first to go in this sale. I was the first to get to them, and the selection was a bit disappointing - only 5 4mm bracelets available. Everything is 50% off, so that makes it ~$300 (original price is $595). I can't find the exact one on the website, this "Cable Classics Bracelet with Gold" is the most similar at $395.
Spotted the Metro Curb Wide Ring with Gold (50% off from $425 - they had quite a few of these), and finally a Cable Inside Bangle with White Diamonds (50% off from $475) - they only had 1 left when I saw it).

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Best Bites of Italy #10: La Beppa Fioraia in Florence

This is the 10th post in my Best Bites of Italy series, a round-up of the best eats during my 2 week trip through Rome, Venice, Florence and Cinque Terre. Previous posts include... Rome: highlighting Renato e LuisaLa Gelateria del TeatroFried Artichokes at GiggettoLa Pizza del Teatro in Rome and Osteria Le Mani in Pasta (truffle heaven!); Venice: Osteria Alla Frasca and Cip Ciap Pizza; and Florence: Uscio e Bottega, and Trattoria San Lorenzo.
Given that the last food recommendation from my foodie AirBnB hostess, Daniella, was BOMB.com, it only seemed appropriate that we hit up another spot on her list of good eats. The one that stuck out to me the most was La Beppa Fioraia. "Modern casual atmosphere, always full of locals and their pizza is very, very good. Garden seating as well," she promised. I was instantly sold. Considering we haven't had pizza since Rome, I definitely wanted to get my fix.

Thanks to social media (Foursquare check-ins FTW), I found out that Christine was in Italy at the same time we were. I barely missed her when we were in Venice, so I was super excited to find out that we were going to have a day overlapping in Florence! I haven't seen Christine since she was in New York over a year ago, so I was more than excited to catch up and hear about her travels.

Also, don't get me wrong, but after spending over a week of couple romantic time with J, we were starting to speak our own strange language. We couldn't help it - Italy was just too romantic for us to not develop some type of weird lovey-dovey language mixed in with Clash of Clans slang. Gag (but kinda cute too right? lol) It was becoming a problem. We needed outside intervention to bring us back to reality.

We met up with Christine and her travel companion, also Christine (two Christines!!) to figure out our game plan for the day. The only request that the Christines had was to go to the Boboli Gardens across the river to explore. Yes, the same ones that Kimye got married in just a few days prior. It just so happened that La Beppa Fioraia was also across the river and on the way to the gardens. Woohoo! Love it when things just work out.